This anthology of Nietzsche's writing is a marvelous work - Kaufmann's translations make the philosopher's unique style accessible and interesting to the English reader; it doesn't resort to false formality or dry academic prose as is often the case in translation of such material, but rather sets things in lively and dynamic tones, much as Nietzsche's own writing and tendency toward the dramatic was noted by his contemporaries.
Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran minister, but he died five years after Nietzsche's birth in 1844. Nietzsche was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunts; later in his life, his sister would become executor of his estate (after Nietzsche had become incapable of managing his own affairs) and reshape his philosophy and writings in her own idea - this becomes a running motif in later anthologies of Nietzsche; editors can quote and clip to fit their own agendas. In some ways, that is true of Kaufmann's text here, but in much less inappropriate ways than others, particularly Nietzsche's first editor, his sister.
Nietzsche was a star pupil from his earliest days at university in Bonn and Leipzig. His formal study was in classical philology, but his attentions turned in various directions quickly during his writing and professional life - he had an intense interest in drama and the arts, with Wagner's music and Greek drama in principal interest. His first book was devoted to these topics - 'The Birth of Tragedy'. It was not highly regarded at the time, but has since become much more appreciated as an anticipation of later developments in philosophy and aesthetics.
Nietzsche's life after this period was a very choppy one - he left the university, claiming illness, and while this developed later to be a true situation, at the time is was probably academic politics and difficulties fitting in with the establishment he was trying to break. He had a formal falling-out with Wagner, even writing later a piece entitled ' Nietzsche contra Wagner', finished just a few week prior to his going insane.
Kaufmann states in the introduction that Nietzsche's real career took off after his active life was over; under his sister's direction, many of the writings Nietzsche had managed to do and not get published, or which were published but forgotten, really took off in major directions. While his major works of Zarathustra, Ecce Homo, Will to Power and Genealogy of Morals were in various editions of disrepair (inded, the Will to Power was never more complete than a series of notes), Nietzsche had a knack for language that made him very quotable, and his influence continued to grow well into the first half of the twentieth century, influencing art, philosophy, history, and politics in dramatic ways, if not always the ways in which Nietzsche envisioned.
For example, Nietzsche was not particularly impressed with the 'typical' German anti-semitism, which later erupted into the Nazi movement. He considered it rather bourgeois, and while he undoubted had his own issues with Jews (Nietzsche had issues with almost everyone, particularly any group, Christians included, who had a religious connection), the Nazi use of Nietzsche's work owes more to Nietzsche's sister's influence than anyone else.
Kaufmann here presents a chronology of Nietzsche (his life and his publications after his death); a brief bibliography, excerpts from correspondence and essays, and major selections from 'Thus Spake Zarathustra', 'Twilight of the Idols', 'The Antichrist', and other major works. Almost all of the writings are presented in new translations by Kaufmann.
This is one of the best single-volumes of Nietzsche available, reprinted dozens of times since its original publication.
on September 5, 2001
Just about everything worth saying about this volume has been said by the other reviewers. A few points are worth reiterating, however. First of all, Walter Kaufmann is a god. I read some of Nietzsche's writings in German while I was in college and, unlike most English-speaking reviewers, I can honestly say that Kaufmann's translation is superb. Kaufmann's editing is equally brilliant, and I recommend that the beginner follow the editor's advice and read this book cover to cover. Only then can one grasp the development of Nietzsche's thought in the manner Kaufmann intended.
Another reviewer ... found it necessary to fault Kaufmann for overemphasizing "those bits which show Nietz. At his most un-Nazi-ish." It's true that Kaufmann takes this approach, however it's not really a fault considering the circumstances of the book's first appearance. This collection was introduced within a decade of the end of World War II. At that time, Nietzsche's reputation in America was badly in need of rehabilitation, having suffered from the taint of Nazi appropriation. In fact, because of the paucity of good translations and informed commentary prior to Kaufmann, Nietzsche was never really habilitated in the first place in the English speaking world. From this perspective, Wilson's criticism appears to be misplaced.
My second point is directed at Nietzsche neophytes. Just about everyone is familiar with the handful of pithy Nietzsche quotes that have found their way into the popular consciousness: "God is dead," and "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" come to mind. I even saw an anarchist website one time that exhorted viewers to mine Nietzsche's books for "cool quotes"! (N. must be rolling in his grave ï¿½ again!). The point to be made here is that, like the Bible, Nietzsche's work can be quoted to support just about any point of view on any topic ï¿½ such is the breadth of his thought. But very few of these snippets carry their intended meaning unless they are read in context ï¿½ not just the context of an individual work, but the context of Nietzsche's oeuvre. Nietzsche took on the tough issues and came at them from all angles; and yes, sometimes he radically changed his mind. Thus, it's easy to accuse him of contradicting himself until one realizes the method to the madness ï¿½ namely, Nietzsche leaves no stone unturned in his quest for truth. This volume is particularly good at making all of this clear.
A final note: Nietzsche will uproot your most cherished prejudices, throw them on a vivisection table and tear into them without anesthesia. Small minds beware!
on December 5, 2002
This tremendous volume is what gave me confidence that philosophy was not only accessible to me, but more than just academic abstraction.
Critics who say that Nietzsche is "obvious" often miss the fact that his thinking was once considered blasphemous & unheard of. In an era that he felt was bogged down in nostalgia & blandness driven by mindless veneration, Nietzsche felt compelled to state what he thought people were denying. If you don't get this, then you won't see how he is still relevant today in a similar era of chronic rehashing of old values whose uselessness is forgotten or hidden by the varnishing given them in a post-global world. In fact, part of Nietzsche's challenge to thinking man is that the "obvious" without critical faculties hides untapped potential. It is only your attitude that is "obvious". This is the crux of his idea of the "reoccurring theme": do you use nostalgia as reflection? Restoration? Irrelevance? Do you go beyond it? Or do you sit idly fawning & worshipping it like a permanent acolyte; never going beyond the instruction manual? An early insight & major clue is given at the VERY BEGINING of this book in a "Letter To His Sister". In a reply to a comment she made about truth being "obvious", his answer condenses to a statement that NOTHING is "obvious" until someone WORKS IT OUT first in the course of human history.
Nietzsche even had the foresight to see that his concise style would be often quoted without being truly understood, and he frequently says so in many writings included here. This is why this volume is so indispensible (i.e. you might flatter yourself that you KNOW Nietzsche, but you probably don't unless you've poured over him for awhile and had a "re-evaluation of all values" with his works). Ironically, he wanted it that way because he realized that the subtle is more often than not lost within style. Fortunately, he was a writer of BOTH great style AND substance; his style goes down easy while his substance is difficult, and this is the great misunderstanding of reading Nietzsche.
Tragically, Nietzsche's statement ,God is dead, is easily quoted out of context by anyone wishing to re-establish blind belief in unquestioned authority by ripping him apart as simply an apologist for uncontrolled libertinism. Nothing is further from the truth, because the original, full statement (here quoted in its pre-Zarathustra form in the tale of "The Madman" as well) is "God is dead. WE HAVE KILLED HIM YOU & I..." It is a broadside to the quote from the Bible saying "God is love": we are capable of killing love, we can crush people's spirits & guilt, AFTER THE FACT, as preached by religion, is too late to undo memory. "Forgive & forget?" If forgiving takes forgetting, we will all wind up as amnesiacs...
Fortunately, Walter Kaufmann is an excellent translator and guide. Much of his annotation in this book is as priceless as the philosopher himself.
This is an essential volume of philosophy, and only as "obvious" as the reader.
on August 27, 2001
This is a great compendium of Nietzsche's thoughts arranged chronologically by date written. I would have rather of had more Beyond Good and Evil and less Contra Wagner but that's my own preference. Those who admire Nietzsche find themselves in a bit of a quandry these days and this leads to the reason why I only gave the book three stars. The PC crowds will wail and moan that Nietzsche is fascist and a proto-Nazi. Of course he is not (his Overman was not a product of genetic breeding but of intellectual enlightenment), but those who admire Nietzsche still feel the need to defend him to the masses. A survey of Nietz. should be just that, a survey of his thoughts and writings. However what Kaufmann has done, in many of the excerpted works and in Nietz's letters, is to select those bits which show Nietz. at his most un-Nazi-ish (cursing and berating anti-Semites, etc.). That's fine for a work designed to show that he was not a proto-Hitler, but the Portable Niezsche is not that work and should not be edited to prove a point. Nietzsche did criticize the Jews in ways that would brand him an anti-Semite today even though he also says that anti-Semites should be shot. However when he says anti-Semites, he means Christians who hate Jews because of Scripture and not those who, like him (he deems their faith megalomaniacal in The AntiChrist), would otherwise criticize them for whatever reasons. I would agree with Kaufmann that Nietzsche is not a proto-Nazi but neither is he a good egalitarian and the only times he ever speaks of equality is to scorn it as a false and dangerous notion. Nietzsche is not so easily defined and I would wish him better left to the thoughtful reader rather than the hopeful editor to discover.
on March 18, 2004
Kaufmann practically bends Nietzsche to his will in this masterpiece from the Viking "portable" series. Nietzsche's busy trying to defy categorization, & old Kaufmann, like any good lawyer, takes his client where finds him: in the murky Old Testament depths of Zarathustra & the Larry King Happy Valley of Aphorisms ("only Englishmen strive for happiness").
If Nietzsche is one of the most misunderstood persons in Western Hx, it's because he worked @it. Philologist by profession, romantic poet (Wanderer & his shadow) by avocation, he's been called everything from greatest philosopher to greatest Anti-Christ. Kaufmann works @some semblance of chronology here: letters, friendships, then the Zarathustra centerpiece, & the endless ordeal with Wagner (what were those guys thinking?). Finally, nonsensical stuff from his 10 years with sis: welcome to "My Brother-in-law, the Nazi."
Portable Nietzsche was my intro. to him, back in high school, when I though he was radical (high school, as in "the 60s"). I still have the same volume today. I've read in thru maybe twice in 35 years. But what fountain of ref. material.
Of course, these days, if you wrote as Nietzsche did here, I'm having all anti-Semites shot, the cops would run over with a warrant, beat you to subdue you, & there'd be establishment damage control, begging forgiveness of anti-Semites; then probably an ACLU-led lawsuit, demanding damages. & Nietzsche was already insane!
As we used to say, "Nietzsche ist pietzsche!"
on January 26, 2004
many have (perhaps willfully) committed the error of relegating nietzsche to adolescence, or at least to an adolescent mentality.
nothing could be further from the truth. nietzsche's valuations of society and human beings only seem to grow more accurate and concrete with age and maturity. for anyone interested in self transformation through the destruction of abstraction, false values, and petty social conditioning, nietzsche is bar none the greatest philosopher to ever live. there may be postmodernism (best defined as "impotence delighting in itself"), derrida, lyotard, and a contemporary smorgasboard of philosophies which most assume have gone far beyond nietzsche. they are wrong. in fact, i'm sure nietzsche himself would have despised these movements and philosophers as deriders of greatness and will. all deridda does is 'deconstruct'; the rest of them pose as worshippers of the outsider in the form of schizophrenia, various madnesses, etc. nothing could be further from the breath of nietzsche's works; he believes in the hero and a palliative, if not ultimate, redemption for mankind through constant self transcendence. i would put nietzsche on high school book lists above shakespeare, above steinbeck, above conrad. read.
on August 8, 2002
After attempting a few summaries of what philosophy is all about, it is great to be able to be able to come back to a book like this and see how so many people got started in this puzzling field. Nietzsche wrote so much, and other philosophers have done everything that they could to be competitive with whatever thoughts they have considered insipid, that this summary is always relevant for those who understand that "Whoever thinks much is not suitable as a party member: he soon thinks himself right through the party." (p. 63). Most Americans are sure to think that it should read "thinks too much," but they have been easy prey for all those who expect them to be insipidly faithful to the expectation, also expressed by Nietzsche in the form of the commandment, "Thou shalt not think." From a paragraph on page 532 called "The Right To Stupidity" to the end of this book, Nietzsche increasingly attacks what he considers "pure foolishness."
Walter Kaufmann, the translater of the selections included in this volume, might prefer to be remembered as a philosopher who questioned guilt more than anything else. Among the selections here:
"The bite of conscience, like the bite of a dog into a stone, is a stupidity." (p. 68).
There is also something on pages 96-7 about the guilt of witches, which we now see as fictitious, and Nietzsche wanted all guilt to be considered equally false. "It is thus with all guilt." This book does not have an index. Anyone who is serious about philosophy deserves to have some book which lists items that are considered important alphabetically in the back of the book so that what has been read does not disappear forever, but can be located and reread when it might be useful. Early readers of this book might have thought that Nietzsche's philosophy was mainly THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, with a before and after. Actually, a lot of Nietzsche's works could be studied for major significance in great detail beyond what is included in this book, and Zarathustra might be considered an alter ego which speaks for an individual good spirit that has to laugh to maintain whatever sense it wishes most strongly. A short section of THE GAY SCIENCE called "Kant's Joke" is included on page 96, just above the section on "Guilt," and "the secret joke of his soul" might be how right he was, or even how right Nietzsche was going to be. In this book, that is only seven pages before Walter Kaufmann's preface to THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, which calls Nietzsche "shy, about five-foot-eight, but a little stooped, almost blind," and "an utterly lonely man." (p. 103). A lot in this book is too true.
on August 23, 2001
I remember when Viking Portables were actually protable. Now printed by Penguin, on thicker paper, portability is a challenge even for the most absurdly spacious cargo pants. Still, it is an important and interesting enough read to merit a try. Containing Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and The Antichirst, this is the ideal companion piece to the Modern Library Basic Writings of Nietzsche. In fact, Walter Kaufmann purposely avoided overlap in the two volumes so that as much Nietzsche as possible could be encompased in two volumes. I hesitate to suggest this as a first volume of Nietzsche, and suggest the Basic Writings instead, because that volume contains Beyond Good and Evil, which is a far more systematic and lucid exposition of Nietzsche's thought. (This volume contains a small excerpt from BG&E, but it is not enough to serve as anything more than a sampling of the style of the work. This remark also applies to the other excerpts in the volume) Not to say that BG&E is more boring for being more systematic--the prose is still dancingly brilliant, nor is it my intent to say that the literary merit of Zarathustra makes it impossible to understand. In fact, for some genuinely poetic types, I have recommended Zarathustra over BG&E, but still, generally, in general, I would still suggest BG&E first. Walter Kaufmann's translation is now considered the gold standard in Nietzsche scholarship. It is easy to see why his translation is so clear in his introductions. Because he too has an acerbic wit, which he deploys against other translations, and blatant misinterpretations of Nietzsche's thought. In fact, it was Kaufmann's book on Nietzsche first published in 1950 that first cleared the air of all the misinterpretations endemic in the English world, in no small part because of the translators that preceeded him. The final verdict? Certainly buy this, but along with, not instead of The Basic Writings. Oh yes, the letters, they're important too, in clearing the air of misinterpretation. His last letter before he went crazy--he suggested killing all the anti-semites.
on August 6, 2001
This is the definitive version of an Englsih translation of Nietzsche. This book covers Nietzsche's later and most important works: "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," "The Antichrist," "Nietzsche Contra Wagner," and "Twilight of the Idols" (all four complete), letters to his sister and friends, and excerpts from the rest of his works.
Nietzsche is often misquoted, misinterprted, and given a bad name. This translation of his works, by Walter Kaufmann, is the definitive version and the best translation from Deutsch to English available. Kaufmann was celebrated for his writings and work on Nietzsche.
This edition takes one of the most prolific and intelligent people from the 19th-20th centuries and brings him to us in all of his glory.
A small book (700 pages), and yet there is both a good sampling of Nietzsche's early works, and the complete transcripts of his four most important books. This single edition allows for someone to follow the evolution of Nietzsche's writing and his very thought process over the course of his life.
The works of Friedrich Nietzsche should be read by anyone and everyone, not just those who are in an enviornment of higher education. If you agree with him, or even hate him and everything that he stands for, it is worth it to read this amazing man's work. If nothing else, it will cause you to stop and reevaluate everything that you hold dear. Reading Nietzsche, and understanding him are to very different things: and understanding him does not mean that one will agree with him; just that one will learn to stop and think about the world around them rather than to just tkae things for granted.
on May 8, 2000
Nietzsche stands as one of my favourite philosophers, and thinkers, alongside David Hume, and others. What makes "The Portable Nietzsche" so great, is in part accredited to Kaufmann's excellent translations, especially in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". He captures the eloquence of Nietzsche's message and creates a smooth transition from German to English. If you are at all interested in Nietzsche, or would like to become more aquainted with his works I highly recommend this book. I must also agree with other reviewers that "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" must be read several times, though I suggest the first read to be casual, and to add scrutiny and critical thinking with each successive read.
Unlike a great deal of philosophers who appear stodgy, Nietzsche infuses his work with passion and fervour. His words are thought provoking, and in my case, life altering in a positive way. I don't know what else to say, other than this;
If you have had the urge to know more about Nietzsche and his works, continue on with it. I consider The Portable Nietzsche more of a manual of life than a collection of theories. For the most part, Nietzsche is the voice of common sense, but he would rather have you decide for yourself, I believe. Nietzsche is not for the faint of heart, however, and is shrouded in controversy over various topics, including, but not limited to religion, sexism and others.
In my opinion, the open minded reap the most benefit from Nietzsche's words.